The Press-Republican contacted the New York State Committee on Open Government to seek an opinion. Assistant Director Camille Jobin-Davis said that, given the circumstances, she believes the letter is subject to attorney/client privilege, which only the School Board can waive.
Were the board, however, to describe what opinions were expressed in the letter during a public meeting, she said, that would constitute waiving its privilege.
After the meeting, Short told the Press-Republican in an email that when the issue was discussed publicly last spring, a representative from the Teachers’ Association indicated the group would argue the equivalency of Plan B to the Statewide Plan if a unilateral switch were to be made.
“Even though, on the surface, the board can make a unilateral change to Teachers (Association) and CSEA, it does not mean that the change would not be met with other entanglements,” Short said.
“Last spring, the board stated they preferred to approach health insurance or any other employee benefit changes through collective bargaining.”
Wachtmeister noted at the meeting that people have the option of bringing Article 78 proceedings against the district in an effort to force a unilateral switch to be made.
“Let’s see (what) those people who have been so vocal and vociferous in saying what we can do, even though they are not attorneys, are willing to do to back up what they say,” he said. “My guess is they won’t.”
Marino then spoke up again, saying that by denying Chmura’s request, “we’re doing what this board does best — be secretive about things ... the biggest thing I heard when I was walking around and talking to people (while running for School Board) is that this board is secretive.
“There’s a letter that was answered by an attorney at the request of the board and has the answers, and this board refuses to surrender it.